To make your MLK Day activities truly engaging and memorable, consider implementing one or more of these teaching ideas into your lesson plans:
I. Show historical video clips
Some children in your class will know more about Martin Luther King, Jr. than their classmates do. Regardless of your students’ knowledge, though, historical footage can engage just about any student.
To find a compelling video clip, visit history.com’s MLK video page, where you can choose short videos (2–5 minutes’ average length) on Dr. King’s historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama or hear former President Clinton share his thoughts about Martin Luther King, Jr.
Older students may enjoy learning about the voting rights bill and fair housing act enacted by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson.
No matter your teaching needs, you’ll probably find a historical video clip to match.
II. Choose thematic books
Teachers don’t have to look far to find great thematic books on Martin Luther King, Jr. Here are a few favorites:
- My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King
- I Have a Dream
- We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song
- This Is the Dream
To make your reading more memorable, connect it to several related activities.
For example, students might do a brief writing activity on one of the big words mentioned in Martin’s Big Words. The class can enjoy birthday cupcakes after reading Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King. Or, students can learn to sing “We Shall Overcome” after reading the story about the song.
III. Plan additional activities
Most teachers are familiar with the white egg/brown egg activity (cracking the eggs and seeing that they look the same inside) and the craft activity in which kids trace their hand shape onto paper of differing shades. Both are fun and memorable ways to teach the value of diversity.
If you want to try something else, take your pick from the following list:
- Create individual “I have a dream that …“ posters for children to hold during a peace march around the school campus.
- Hand out printables such as the ones shown on TeacherVision, which includes coloring pages, dream-idea sheets, and more.
- Create a class poster about peaceful acts the students can choose to do every day.
- Offer crossword puzzles or word searches for older kids.
- Fill out an acrostic poem, using every letter in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s name. For a shorter activity, choose the word ‘peace’ for the acrostic.
- Make a class timeline about key events in Dr. King’s life.
- Perform random acts of kindness for classmates or family members, and then report on the experience.
Now that you have a few ideas at hand, you’re ready to help students live the dream and learn from history—all while having a great, memorable experience.
TIP: February is Black History Month. Check out our free printable activity so you’re ready to go!